I’m writing from Jakarta, Indonesia, where I’ve been on tour for the past 2 weeks with a production of Ivan Jacob’s Phantom of the Opera. It has been an adventure, let me tell you! As of today we’re halfway through our run, and a LOT has happened. But for this first post on my performance blog, I’d like to tell you about a particularly exciting experience last Saturday, February 18, 2012 – probably one of the most thrilling performance experiences of my life – where life literally imitated art. I went on as Christine. As the understudy.
To give you a little background on the story, Christine Daee is a young soprano at the Paris Opera who is tutored by a mysterious “Angel of Music” whose voice appears in her dressing room. In reality, he is the Phantom of the Opera, a deformed masked man who haunts the bowels of the opera house. Christine is understudy to the grand diva, Carlotta. One night, after the Phantom diabolically renders Carlotta unable to sing, Christine goes on in her place and sings her heart out, surprising everyone.
And that’s kind of what happened. I was cast as the understudy for Christine. The music was a challenge to learn and I’d never done dialogue before – this was my first experience with Music Theater. During rehearsals, I just tried to soak up everything I could. I watched my colleagues like a hawk and worked on the material with my coach and understudy counterparts. We didn’t have time for our own understudy rehearsal, even after arriving in Jakarta. As we finally got our show up and running, I spent every night in the wings watching, reviewing, getting it all into my mind and body.
Unfortunately, our first grueling week in Jakarta was tough on all of us. My colleague Natalie, who plays Christine, got very, very ill. The Phantom curse struck like lighting.
I got the call at 6PM, 2 hours before our show. I’d had a feeling all day and the night before that I would need to go on, so I warmed up for the role, spent extra time with the material, and saved my voice during the matinee. Once the call came, a rush of adrenaline, excitement, and nerves hit me full on. I gathered up my things, breathing “I’m going on, I’m going on!” at least a dozen times, and ran over to the theater. Jose fit me into Christine’s dresses, Trent worked his wig & makeup magic, Kathy wrangled with my mic packs until they were firmly on my legs with double-sided tape. I worked through a few scenes with Shouvik (Phantom) & Louis (Didot), felt out the stage a little. Brian (Phantom’s understudy) and Chris (Raoul) ran through lines with me, Renee posted the news to my Facebook profile, I got dressed, and it was show time.
Christine enters the show in a big ensemble number, “The Opera,” and suddenly it was over and Kristin Jensen made her debut to all of Jakarta as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, while Christine Daee made her debut to all of Paris as Marguerite in Faust. It was electric! Life imitating art! The entire show was thrilling – every scene, every song. Somehow, without any proper rehearsal, I was able to nail those scenes, to be in the moment responding as Christine. My voice was in great form, the music felt easy. My colleagues watched from the wings cheering me on. I felt a quiet, heavenly peace inside and all around me. It was a miracle.
Here are some pictures of the experience:
I just can’t express what an amazing experience it was to sing Christine, how grateful I am for the blessing of such wonderful, supportive colleagues, and that I took the time to prepare! When the door opened, I was ready.